Here’s Why That Kim Kardashian ‘Burqa’ Photo Is Offensive

Jane Of All Trades Kim Kardashian was in Dubai this week to attend, among other events, the opening of a new branch of L.A.’s celeb-obsessed Millions of Milkshakes store. While in Dubai, she and mom Kris went to a shop and tried on niqabs. (Note: several news outlets have said that Kim was trying on burqas, but I believe the garment in this image is niqab. Niqabs are headscarves with slits for the eyes while burqas are full-body covers.)

Kim has never met a photo op she didn’t love, so what’s the problem with her sampling the local clothing custom? Because traditional Muslim dress isn’t a prop or a party favor, that’s why. There are many women throughout the world who wear the burqa or niqab because they have to, not because they want to. Other people’s religious garments aren’t costumes, Kim, but considering that everything in your life is either a costume or an excuse for a photo op, I wouldn’t expect you to be able to tell the difference.

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  • Eileen Nguyen

    Hmm. On the one hand, there is a part of me that can’t help wanting to see Kim Kardashian wear that outfit all the time because, well, she looked so much better in it than she usually does. (KK is genuinely pretty! – just overexposed)

    But I wonder…I’m agnostic, but I went to Catholic university and am very comfortable attending Catholic services. I say the confiteor, the credo, the Lord’s prayer, and the kyrie with everyone else; I stand, sit, kneel, and cross myself when expected, and know all of the responses to the modern English Mass. I’ve never received holy communion because I feel that that would be truly disrespectful, but I’ve never met a Catholic priest who was offended by the fact that I professed a creed I’m not sure I believe. In fact, the school I attended is very big on interreligious dialogue, and I was encouraged to attend all kinds of services.

    Obviously, clothing is more superficial than actual services (and as a religious history major, clearly I’m familiar with what a huge deal the Nicene Creed is and am aware of that every time I get to the words “proceeds from the Father and the Son”), but on some level, it’s the same thing: I’m not Catholic, but I participate in one of the most important rituals of Catholicism with the full support of a slew of Jesuits and conservative Catholic classmates (again, leaving out holy communion). At what point does trying on a different religion become offensive?

  • I go back and forth on this. Especially after finding out from a friend’s husband who does work in the UAE that A LOT of western women do try on and purchase abayas, hiqabs, etc when they visit. Like “Mickey Mouse” ears at Disney World, they are a souvenir. I doubt most of them consider what they are doing insulting to a religion, but neither to do non-Catholics who wear Rosaries, although that is a sign of disrespect in the mind of a Catholic (such as myself).

    I doubt, however, many Muslims consider it a huge sign of disrespect to wear the tradition clothing of an “orthodox” Muslim woman since it is the law in many countries such as Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. (NPR journalist Renee Montagne was required to wear a full burqa during her last reporting stint in Afghanistan and has described the experience on air for her listeners. She wasn’t doing it for religious reasons but legal and job-related ones) In the UAE it is a choice and not one they restrict to just Islamic women, so maybe, we can cut Kim K some slack on this one.